The network for women whose personal and work life matter to them in equal measure.

Featured Member: Liggy Webb

Best Selling Author & International Consultant in behavioural skills

January 2014

The Power of a Positive Mind

An interview with Liggy Webb.

Life is as tough as it’s ever been’ says Liggy as we first start chatting. In terms of self-actualization, it is harder today to be happy. There is a lot of materialism in western society encouraged by the media, as unhappiness can be commercialised and therefore fixed by a simple purchase of desired items. However, this is a short-term fix and Liggy Webb is more concerned about the long-term solutions. With absence from work, due to sickness absenteeism, costing the economy approximately £100 billion a year, isn’t it about time we start taking better care of ourselves? Liggy thinks so.


Who is Liggy Webb?

Essentially Liggy’s background is in learning and development and over the last 25 years she has worked in big corporate organisations around the world.  Seven years ago she decided to start up her own company, which is a consortium of behavioural skills specialists. Around the same time, she begun her position as an international consultant for the United Nations, working with its competency framework, and providing her with the opportunity to work at its headquarters in Geneva, Vienna and New York.  She has also worked at duty stations, allowing her to travel to places such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Beirut and Ethiopia.

Liggy started writing books in 2006, which include:

 One of the reasons Liggy has such an interest in mental health is because she herself has experienced bouts of depression and there is history of it in her family. When asked about mental health, she explained; ‘I became really interested in what causes it and what kind of mechanisms people can put in place, so I became very interested in exploring alternative methods to medication.’  These include paying attention to your diet, exercise regime and cognitive behavioural therapy. She has managed her own challenges very successfully and is now determined to help others.


How does this affect the Workplace?

Liggy has always been a disciple of positive psychology, and during her experience of working at a wide variety of organisations she noticed that a lot of people get stress-related illnesses. That is why she wrote her book How to work wonders, aiming to help people in the workplace to look at attitudes and how our mind and perceptions are huge factors in terms of controlling how we react to different situations. She decided to develop her work around workplace wellness and stress management, resulting in her books starting to become more popular along with the programmes she designed for various organisations including the NHS.

Resilience, her fifth book, was a real turning point for Liggy, becoming an Amazon bestseller and is now translated in to six languages. For the book she interviewed around 100 people with the purpose of finding out what is it that makes people more capable of being resilient. In particular, despite the organisations she works with having an environment of constant change, she often here’s people saying, “I don’t change!” But perhaps what we all need to understand is that change is not just a temporary experience where we are going to go through; change is a constant! However, why focus on the potential negatives? Change also presents opportunities.

Liggy says to look for the ‘Probatunity – for every problem there is always going to be an opportunity. Focus and identify the solution and the opportunities that change brings. Accept the worst-case scenario but look towards the opportunities. It is not easy and is a mind-set that needs working on.’ 

Understanding how difficult this can be, Liggy wanted to create strategies to help people cope with the stresses that life can bring. The most important of these strategies are:

(A) To take personal responsibility

(B) To be able to take something and do something with it

She created 10 personal coping strategies in total for being able to deal with challenges and adversity. Find them here.


How and why does this impact Women?

The male and female mentality is different. ‘Men are very good at being able to detach whereas women are not designed to do that so much. Moreover, in general, we have a greater level of empathy and we can be more compassionate’, says Liggy.

Liggy uses an airplane analogy. ‘When the masks fall down the instruction is to put it on yourself first before you help other people. However, women are very good at wanting to help everybody else but then end up running themselves in to the ground and then they are no use to anybody.’ Women attach themselves in order to empathise so that we can be compassionate. In many ways that is a real challenge in the workplace because we can get quite upset. This may offer some insight in to why women get very emotional in response to problematic situations. When asked if she believed if women could make great managers, Liggy said; ‘women can make excellent managers because they have the ability to understand why people do things and how they go about doing their work.’

Empathy is now a massive issue within the corporate world: ‘Gone are the days of simply let’s focus on the task. It is much more focused on the how and the behaviours’ of employees’ says Liggy.  Understanding ourselves and why we react a certain way, can be useful in making intelligent decisions about how we’re going to feel and react to a situation.

When you appreciate your own personal value it can give you strength because then when someone criticises you, you aren’t so vulnerable. You can take a step back and evaluate the criticism to determine, “Is this going to improve me? Will it add value? Or actually is this just someone’s very subjective opinion.”


You need time for you

People today are living under the illusion that they don’t have time for self-examination but it really is important. I recall saying to Liggy as we chatted that I always find I have very little time. Liggy asks, ‘Do you spend time thinking ‘what do I think’? What do I like about myself?’  Not in a selfish way and not to the detriment to other people.  It sounds clichéd but the best relationship you will ever have should be with yourself. There is a lot of self-loathing today, people beating themselves up thinking they aren’t good enough, particularly women. On a superficial level we all worry about the way we look, we’re not tall enough or skinny enough or young enough and it’s crazy because you’ve only got what you’ve got and we should make the best of ourselves.

Liggy defines happiness on 3 levels:

(1) Superficial – social events, clothes, materialism

(2) The Good Life – relationships, work, interests

(3) The Meaningful Life – our purpose, what am I here for? What is my value?  *This is very important*.

Liggy discovered that the happiest people she interviewed for her book, How to be Happy, were those who have a great relationship with themselves. They weren’t arrogant but they were confident. They liked who they were, they liked their thoughts and the things that they did and how they interacted with other people.

Liggy believes that there is a lot of pressure on women to compare themselves to other people…‘Is she a better mother than me?’ ‘She gives her children things I don’t, does that make me a bad mum?’ There is a lot of pressure on parents particularly at Christmas.  Remember, love doesn’t come in big boxes with fancy paper it’s much more about teaching self-value.


Feelings are infectious

When you look at the research around positivity, people who have a highly positive mental attitude have better health, stronger immune systems, better relationships and better healing processes.

However in the workplace, particularly in the UK, Liggy has noticed that there is a culture in many organisations where it is frowned upon to be positive. There is a ‘whinge culture’ that focuses on moaning about what the organization is doing to individuals.

Evidence shows that we can catch negative attitudes from others. If you’re with a negative person it can make you feel down. We can have a very negative outlook on our work environment but Liggy asks ‘how long do you want to stay there?’  To some degree it might help you get some stuff off your chest but it is not helpful! If you say you don’t like change it’s like saying you don’t like life because it is the most inevitable thing. You might not be able to do anything about this but you can 100% change your attitude towards it. You can focus on the best-case scenario.

Do not look for the negative, instead focus on the positive! Your reality is your perception and you have the power to change it at any point in your life. We were not born negative, that is how we chose to condition ourselves. The power of our thoughts is incredible. Channel positivity and embrace change, as it is one of very few certainties in life so you should enjoy it!


Further Information

Liggy supports several mental health charities and donates the contents and intellectual property of any relevant research and material she accumulates to them  so that they can access the information and data for free.

If you would like to contact Liggy, feel free to follow her on Twitter: @LiggyW or send her an email: liggy@liggywebb.com


Do you make time for self-evaluation? Do you appreciate yourself? Have you been affected by anything mentioned in this feature interview?

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